Robin Matthews is professor at universities in London and Moscow; consultant with international companies; writes on business, economics; and finance: creative imagination techniques in management.
Why Vote for Jeremy Corbyn
WHY VOTE FOR JEREMY CORBYN?
He seems to believe in something close to why many people want to vote Labour; values perhaps in the tradition of Keir Hardie or the Christian Socialists. Though he might disavow the Christian bit. I don’t know. But it’s not too bad a thing to follow a man who owned nothing.
Whereas the others (candidates) don’t seem to stand for much. Ambition. Faith; in pseudo economics; that the deficit is important, when it’s not; in austerity, when there is no need for it except that together deficit plus austerity provide an enemy and anxiety, that justify policies that they (the conservatives and secretly I guess the other candidates) want for other than economic reasons.
And they have faith in bad arithmetic. Actually less than 40 per cent of electors and around 25 per cent of people eligible to vote voted for Mr Cameron and Mr Osborne. That is not endorsement of welfare cuts.
I suspect that at least as many people are put off Labour by the fictions about Iraq, told by the tragic Mr Blair, than by the fiction that the deficit was caused by anything much, other than the financial crisis. A crisis, that because of austerity, and deficit (I think someone called it) fetish, is still with us and with the EU (another story).
A classic book by James Buchanan lists three reasons why the public debt is bad. And none of them are based on economics[i]. They are all founded on the belief that big government is a bad thing. By big government Buchanan meant governments that don’t balance budgets and have sizeable debt and use the need for social welfare spending as an excuse.
Foundations are founded on foundations. It is not possible to know what other people think, but a guess about the foundations of Mr Cameron and Mr Osborne’s belief, is that success is based on talent and effort - packaged as aspiration, rather than luck. They underestimate luck. It follows that they think welfare provision by the state discourages people from being aspirational.
The other labour candidates have more or less bought the ideas that welfare spend-thriftness and bad economic management, shamefully theirs, and not the financial crisis was responsible for the deficit and requires austerity. And the need to focus on aspiration because this is the middle ground.
It may be the middle ground if middle means average. But it’s not the model ground. In descriptive stats the model class or mode is the class containing the greatest number. Sixty per cent of voters did not vote for Mr Cameron and Mr Osborne and seventy five percent of people eligible to vote, did not vote for them.
It seems that Mr Corbyn doesn’t believe the nonsense about austerity or the evils of the deficit or the need to balance budgets whatever the circumstances. Good. He could be standing for what the model voter stands for.
At least two considerable advantages for Mr Corbyn; first, initially he didn’t want the leadership, but others want him to accept it; and second he didn’t study PPE at Oxford and get sufficiently superficial knowledge of economics to make it a dangerous thing.
Disadvantages. He will get a terrible press. That has already begun, sugared by the other candidates and the Guardian newspaper. But maybe public identification with his decency will make the press more decent. And there will be a problem of getting reliable advisers and colleagues. Difficult. But reputation for decency is not a bad way of attracting advisers and colleagues.
Maybe he could be an Atlee type leader. A chairman. Not pretending to be clever. But clever at picking people. The real role of a leader. And sacking them, if necessary. Mr Atlee’s explanation for doing so was ‘not up to it’. A common impression of the other candidates.
[i] James M. Buchanan (1958) Public Principles of Public Debt.